Featured image of Student Redesigns Nintendo 64 Joystick using 3D Printing
Retro Redesign

Student Redesigns Nintendo 64 Joystick using 3D Printing

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Sep 26, 2018

Nam Le, a student from California Polytechnic State University, reverse engineered a Nintendo 64 joystick system from scratch using upcycled controllers. His redesign is sturdier, more durable and longer-lasting than current joysticks.

Fans of Nintendo know the irritation of having to replace a controller joystick regularly. But, what can you do other than suck it up and buy a new one?

Nam Le, a fan of retro video gaming, hold the answer. Fed up with having to buy replacements, he instead used his knowledge of 3D printing to engineer a much more durable controller.

That’s not to say it was an easy task as it involved reverse engineering the controller’s 20-year-old components. Yet, the work paid off: The redesign is a much sturdier joystick.

To create the re-engineered Nintendo 64 controller, Le used 3D printing, bringing new technologies to a retro joystick. The sturdy design means his gaming will never again unexpectedly end.

Re-engineering a Nintendo 64 Controller from Scratch

Le is currently a student at California Polytechnic University. He worked with 3D Hubs to make the new controller possible.

One of the challenges Le faced was the lack of documentation for the old controller parts. Therefore, working out how parts interacted and how they should be assembled required a diligent process of trial and error.

Le began by disassembling his controller and measuring all of its components by hand. He then began creating CAD files for the parts. In total, the process took three months to complete. Impressively, Le did this work himself with very little knowledge of 3D modeling.

Le explains why the joystick tends to break down: “ assembly was made of three key components: the gears, stick, and bowl. The gears wore down from the mating surface of the stick, the bowl wore down making the joystick offset from its main axis and the stick itself would wear due to abrasive dust.”

To make sure this didn’t happen with his new design, Le used SLS technology with various 3D printing materials. They included Visijet M3 Crystal for the gear teeth, brass for the main body of the gear and nylon (PA12).

Le’s new design may be the world’s most durable N64 controller. In fact, it has already lasted longer than an original controller. He’s now been using his prototype for 6 months and there is now no sign of breakage yet.

Better yet, it’s also been deemed tournament legal and the entire gaming community is interested in Le’s 3D printed controller alternative.

Source: 3D Hubs blog

The Nintendo 64 controllers disassembled

License: The text of "Student Redesigns Nintendo 64 Joystick using 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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